The Levellers’ new album ‘Peace’ comes at a time when things in the world are dark, dreary, and it just feels like there’s no hope in sight. The latest batch of tunes certainly has that feel to it. Although, having Levellers release a new album in 2020 feels like a glimmer of hope to me. Their music continues to be relevant & topical, thought-provoking and highly enjoyable folk punk that continues to put a smile on my face with each album.
‘Peace’ is the Brighton, UK band’s first new album of new material since 2012’s ‘Static on the Airwaves.’ I really enjoyed that album and consider it one of the best ones in recent years. They have been keeping busy in between that with re-recording classics at Abbey Road Studios for 2018’s ‘We The Collective.’ With that one, it was cool to see them rearrange the classics but in the end, I wanted new stuff. So here we are, 11 new tracks to add to the daily rotation and I’m sure the band will release some b-sides, remixes and other rarities when this is released as well. Who knows if they ever got the chance to record additional songs with the whole end of the world/pandemic thing going on.
The first track on the album is “Food Roof Family,” which also happened to be the first single as well. It’s your standard Levs tune, powerful message with a rousing chorus. Jon’s fiddling playing is always noticeable, in a good way. “Generation Fear” screams of something that The Clash would have put out. I like the keys, guitars and drum intro for the song as well. The first two songs Mark sings lead on, but the next track, “Four Boys Lost,” is done by Simon. It’s about a tragic boating accident off a remote Scottish Island. The song does have a bit of a Scottish flair to it with bagpipes (and fiddle of course). At least it sounds like pipes in there unless the fiddle was distorted somehow. Uilleann pipes? Either way, I love this song and the hook of the song is just terrific.
“Burning Hate Like Fire” takes a few listens to really get into it, but it’s another powerful one after hearing the words being sung by Mark. “Calling Out” is perhaps a highlight of the album for me. When I first heard it and saw the music video, it really stood out to me because it just didn’t sound like anything the Levellers have done before. Is this the most rockin’ song they have done to date, even with an almost-hardcore breakdown halfway through the song? Simon is singing about day to day life and being stuck in the same old rut. This verse felt particularly personal to me; “When did my life become so boring? And was it overnight I turned into a slave?” It’s almost similar to the Maple State’s song “Deadline” verse “If you continue down the same path, you’re going to get the same results.” At least that’s what I take away from it. There’s definitely more going on with the song but folk or rock, this version on ‘Peace’ is a stand out. Would be interesting to hear the other styles they came up with for this one.
The rest of the album is just as solid. “Ghosts in the Water” is about the climate crisis, “The Men Who Would Be King” is a Levellers song you’d expect them to write, and “Albion & Phoenix” has Mark and Simon singing together about the band’s past & nostalgia. The album ends with “Our Future,” which the album finally sees that glimmer of hope from the band. They want positive change, and want the world to be thinking about the future. “Our future, our future, it’s the only one that we should talk of now.”
My initial reaction to ‘Peace’ is it felt a bit darker than past albums, but it’s just the world we’re living in right now. The album is a little bit different than others but not out of the Levellers spectrum. To me, it’s adjacent to albums like ‘Truth and Lies’ and “Letters from the Underground.” There’s definitely some angst in these songs that resembles their earlier selves as well. I’m not sure where I would rank it among other albums but who cares honestly. All you need to know is the Levellers have a new album out, there’s some excellent folk & punk songs on it that will make you think and I’m extremely happy about it. I may not always be hopeful myself but I’m hoping I get to see this band perform these songs live in the future. In the meantime. I’ll be playing this album over and over until that day comes.
Bottom Line: 30+ years as a band and the Levellers continue to stay relevant and offer up their commentary of the world through their music.
Notable Tracks: Food Roof Family, Generation Fear, Four Boys Lost, Calling Out, The Men Who Would Be King, Albion & Phoenix